Ford vote against Saarlouis: “We feel lied to and cheated”

Status: 06/22/2022 18:07

Ford will produce its new electric car models in Valencia. The decision was made against the Saarlouis plant, where no more cars will roll off the assembly line after 2025. The 4,600 employees are outraged. Your future is open.

A rhythmic clapping of paper fans from the IG Metall trade union, the shrieking of whistles and the blasting of compressed air fanfares mingle in a hall on the Ford factory premises in Saarlouis. It is a deafening noise with which the employees of the car manufacturer vent their frustration at a works meeting. “The management made us empty promises. We feel lied to and betrayed by the Ford European management,” said Markus Thal, chairman of the works council.

After a tough bidding process, the Ford group decided on the location in Valencia, Spain. It will produce two new electric car models in the future. His future is thus secured. The plant in Saarland, with its approximately 4,600 employees and around 2,000 other local suppliers, is left empty-handed.

The employees were informed at the works meeting in Saarlouis.

Image: Frauke Feldmann/SR

“Hard decisions” necessary

Ford Europe boss Stuart Rowley said in a telephone press conference that the decision was made after a comprehensive consultation process with both locations. The group will invest two billion dollars in the production of electric cars at the Cologne site. Production is scheduled to start there at the end of next year. Ford has set out to build a sustainable business in Europe, CEO Jim Farley justified the decision in a statement. “This requires focus and tough decisions.”

The plant in Valencia is the “best positioned plant for the production of vehicles based on a next-generation Ford electric vehicle architecture,” it says. From 2026, the US carmaker wants to build more than two million electric cars in Europe every year and achieve an adjusted operating margin of ten percent.

Search for future options for Saarlouis

Rowley emphasized that the decision in favor of Valencia as the “preferred location” does not mean the end for the location in Saarlouis. The group has set up a task force to find solutions with the workforce and the state government as to how the plant can continue. However, he has not yet made any concrete proposals. In any case, cars should no longer roll off the assembly line after 2025.

Both locations would face significant restructuring, according to the Ford Europe boss. Because fewer people are needed to build electric cars. He did not name how many jobs will be cut, even after repeated requests.

Employees want to keep fighting

In the afternoon, almost 2,500 employees set out on a demonstration in front of the Saarlouis factory. They fear for their existence when production of the combustion model Ford Focus ends in mid-2025. “The metalworkers will use all means to defend themselves against the liquidation of the Ford site,” said Jörg Köhlinger, head of the IG Metall district in the middle. If management doesn’t give in, Ford will feel “the resistance of an entire federal state”.

The group has demanded a lot from its employees in recent years in order to remain competitive despite the pandemic and semiconductor shortage: no more night shifts, short-time work and, according to the works council chairman Thal, a reduction of 2500 jobs. “Without perspective for Saarlouis, we will not accept the group’s decision,” said the managing director of IG Metall Völklingen, Lars Desgranges.

“Ford’s decision is a farce”

There is also sharp criticism from politicians. “Ford’s decision is a farce,” said Saarland Prime Minister Anke Rehlinger and Economics Minister Jürgen Barke. “After everything we know, we can say with confidence: the bottom line is that the Saarlouis location is clearly ahead. This gives the impression that the process was never fair.”

Saarland’s Prime Minister Rehlinger spoke to Ford employees on site.

Image: Frauke Feldmann/SR

In mid-May, the two SPD politicians traveled to the top of the group in Detroit, USA, to promote the location. According to the Prime Minister, the offer had a total volume of almost one billion euros.

Rehlinger said he was still open to working with Ford, but the group had to want that too. “We have always fought for jobs – not primarily for a car manufacturer. If they are no longer willing or able to do so, we will look for alternatives.” The Saarland state parliament wants to meet tomorrow for a special session. The fears of the employees continue.

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